Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s party hit back on Monday on allegations of stashing away undeclared wealth abroad, saying all the businesses mentioned as in the Panama Papers were legitimate and part of his family’s business holdings.
“All these businesses are part of the declared Sharif business empire,” said information minister Pervaiz Rashid, who addressed a news conference on Sharif’s behalf in Islamabad on Monday evening. He clarified Sharif had no holdings abroad and these were in the names of his children, who pursued legitimate business interests.
No Pakistani laws were broken by owing these properties, he said.
Sharif’s PML-N party will hire a lawyer in London to defend him against these allegations. “This includes the allegations made against Nawaz Sharif by (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf leader) Imran Khan,” Rashid said.
Imran Khan has called for action against Sharif after the release of the Panama Papers. He told a news conference on Monday morning that the National Accountability Board (NAB) should probe Sharif. “If I come to power, I will not let Nawaz Sharif get away with this,” he added.
However, Rashid said Khan should prove his allegations against the premier or face legal action. “We are even willing to pay for Imran Khan’s legal fees if he sues us in London,” he said.
Rashid accused Khan of squandering money that was donated for his cancer hospital and using it for his political activities.
Rashid said Sharif’s sons lived in London, where the business interests and properties were held. “There is nothing wrong with that.”
Three of Sharif’s four children — Maryam, who is tipped to be his political successor, Hasan and Hussain – owned real estate in London through offshore companies, according to the Panama Papers.
Earlier, Hussain Nawaz had told a TV news channel that his family had done nothing wrong. “Those apartments are ours and those offshore companies are also ours,” he said in comments aired by the channel. “There is nothing wrong with it and I have never concealed them, nor do I need to do that.
“It is according to British law and laws of other countries, that it is a legal way to avoid unnecessary tax via offshore companies.”
Hussain said he had left Pakistan in 1992 and therefore is not a resident, adding Pakistani tax law “says that if you are not staying in Pakistan for more than 138 days, then you are not required to declare your assets”.